This production is shoe-horned not just into fitting the season's concept, but also into fitting into Alison Chitty's "installation set" that has been designed to accommodate all of this year's shows. There isn't a moment when the solid, wide two-level grey façade feels specific to this production; instead, it's a blank space into which a mostly blank reading of the play is projected. The only extra design intervention (also by Chitty) is to add three silver rings, absurdly manoeuvred to suggest various obstacles encountered by the lovers in the woods, and then suspended from the ceiling to provide a trapeze-like space for some of the fairies to observe the proceedings from, for director Gale Edwards' sole directorial invention of turning this into some kind of romantic circus.
Cirque du Soleil, however, it is not, despite the wishfully 'zany' dress of the fairies in tutus and blue dreadlocked wigs. Meanwhile, an eager troupe of young lovers hurl themselves hopelessly not just at each other but also haplessly at the verse, and nothing escapes unscathed from the collision. I've seldom seen such charmless, colourless couplings of Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, as Akiya Henry and James Loye, Daisy Haggard and Joe Anderson respectively bring to the stage here.
The mechanicals fare little better with their hopeless play, drearily rehearsed and even more desperately played. "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all", is good advice in life; but though it would make this review very short indeed if I followed it to the letter here, of the rest I am going to try to be nice by remaining silent.
- Mark Shenton